Classical reception and erotic Latin poetry in Sixteenth-Century Scotland: the case of Thomas Maitland (ca. 1548–1572)

Reid, S. J. (2018) Classical reception and erotic Latin poetry in Sixteenth-Century Scotland: the case of Thomas Maitland (ca. 1548–1572). In: Petrina, A. and Johnston, I. (eds.) The Impact of Latin Culture on Medieval and Early Modern Scottish Writing. Series: Studies in Medieval and early modern culture. Medieval Institute Publications: Kalamazoo, MI, pp. 3-40. ISBN 9781580442817 (doi: 10.2307/j.ctv19x4mn.5)

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This chapter draws on two separate but inter-related areas of research. The first is the life, career and works of Thomas Maitland, who was the son of Richard Maitland of Lethington and a Scottish neo-Latin poet. Maitland’s extant work was printed in the Delitiae Poetarum Scotorum (1637) and is surprisingly versatile, comprising seven elegies, four sylvae (or occasional poems) in hexameter, and 28 short poems and epigrams, ranging in length from 2 to 30 lines, and in a variety of meters. The second is the use of the elegiac couplet by Scottish neo-Latinists before 1603, which by necessity also involves an examination of the extent and nature of erotic and obscene poetry written by Scots in the same period, and the situation of Scotland within the context of international developmets in neo-Latin elegy. Maitland’s erotic poems, which comprise four elegies and a range of epigrams in elegiac couplets and hendecasyllables, are important for two reasons. Firstly, Maitland comes closer than any of his other Scottish contemporaries to creating original poetry that also successfully emulates the conceits, themes and structures of Classical erotic poetry – chiefly that of Tibullus, Propertius, Ovid, Catullus, and Martial. Secondly, Maitland is an important ‘missing link’ in the development of Scottish elegiac verse. While the greatest Scottish neo-Latinist of the age, George Buchanan, wrote erotic and obscene poetry in the 1540s and 1550s, and a range of authors including David Hume and Arthur Johnston contributed to the genre in the early seventeenth century, only Maitland and Mark Boyd (author of Epistolae quindecim (1590) and Epistolae heroides et hymni (1592), which directly imitated Ovid’s Heroides) actively developed this field in a Scottish context in the immediate post-reformation period.

Item Type:Book Sections
Keywords:Thomas Maitland, Tibullus, Propertius, Ovid, Catullus, Martial, Mark Boyd, George Buchanan, classical reception, Neo-Latin elegy.
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Reid, Professor Steven
Authors: Reid, S. J.
Subjects:D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
P Language and Literature > PA Classical philology
College/School:College of Arts & Humanities > School of Humanities > History
Publisher:Medieval Institute Publications

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Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
585871Bridging the Continental divide: neo-Latin and its cultural role in Jacobean Scotland, as seen in the Delitiate Poetarum Scotorum (1637)Steven ReidArts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC)AH/J007331/1HU - HISTORY